Wednesday, 11 June 2008


The clock cannot be turned back– which is what the Islamic fundamentalists are trying to do. The discovery of oil in the Arab world has unleashed the forces of change and modernization, and these processes will continue.They are unstoppable and inevitable.Oman will continue to develop – the oil revenue will see to that... Sleepy Fanja now has a six-lane highway going past it , a whole mountain torn down to construct it.Bin Laden and his followers wish to take the Muslim world back to a mythical distant past , the Caliphate of the seventh century A.D. , ‘ the good old days’ ,when life was simpler,purer and less complicated than today. It is totally unrealistic, and is not going to happen... If the Arabs can be persuaded to view the future with confidence, with the assurance that their values and their identity are not in danger, they will not embrace fundamentalist doctrines which have no relevance in the modern world. It is our job to persuade them that they have nothing to fear from the forces of progress and modernization, that this is the only way forward

And, finally, we must solve the Palestinian problem. It is an utter contradiction for the Israelis to demand their right to a homeland, and then to deny that right to the Palestinians.The West claims that it believes in democracy and human rights, yet only goes through the motions of protecting the Palestinians. This issue is the catalyst of so much hatred in the Arab world. If the West were able to solve this problem amicably, a great deal of the bile and venom towards us would disappear.

Samuel Huntingdon and others have written about an inevitable ‘clash of civilisations’ between the Islamic world and the West .This is nonsense. As my experience proved, Arabs and Westerners can work very harmoniously together, as long as both parties feel they are pursuing mutually beneficial objectives.

ภาพจาก Destination Oman

เว็บอื่นที่น่าสนใจเกี่ยวกับโอมาน Oman Holidays BLOG

Notice: A British mate of mine, Robert Butterfield, sent me his journey story to publish on the blog. His experiences inside the kingdom and abroad would be shared regularly. I’d like to thank Bob for the fantastic writing.

โรเบิร์ต บัตเตอร์ฟิลด์ เพื่อนชาวอังกฤษส่งบทความการเดินทางท่องเที่ยวในประเทศไทยและต่างประเทศมาให้นำลงเพื่อให้เพื่อนๆ ได้อ่านกัน ขอขอบคุณบ้อบที่ตั้งใจเขียนบันทึกการเดินทางมาฝากเพื่อนๆ และจะทยอยนำลงให้อ่านกันอีกครับ


Iraq is a classic example of how not to promote change in the Arab world.Arabs, rather like the rest of us, will change their ways when they feel that it will benefit them to do so. Like us,they welcome modern conveniences and appliances that make life easier yet also wish to preserve what is best in their societies.Like us ,they have a strong sense of identity,which they wish to retain, and a fear of losing the best of their traditions. They are not that different from us. We should have a sympathetic understanding of their fears and anxieties and seek to allay them.We should not attempt to thrust our culture, especially its more tawdry aspects, in their faces, as is being done at present.We should appreciate the positive values of their culture .We have much to learn from their community values, and how they look after each other .Our society is far from perfect and we too have difficulties in adapting to change. We should be patient with the people of traditional, conservative societies and realize that we have much in common. Above all, we should cease to think that our ways are always superior to theirs, and stop behaving in a patronizing way.

ภาพจาก Destination Oman


There is also Israel. Israel, despite being a wealthy country, is the number one beneficiary of U.S. foreign aid.There is a powerful Jewish lobby, very active in Washington, which consistently influences U.S. foreign policy in favour of Israel.Thus the U.S. is seen as a sponsor of the repressive tactics meted out by the Israelis on the Arabs. “America props up and arms Israel,” said Nassir to me, “and without American aid, Israel would collapse tomorrow.” Unlikely, but this remark illustrates the power of America and the fact she has neglected to find a lasting solution to the Palestinian problem. This problem has been allowed to fester and has fanned the flames of Arab anger.

Countries like Oman are changing at bewildering speed.Changes which took place over centuries in other countries have occurred in two generations in Oman.It took the British two hundred and fifty years to change from a largely agricultural society to an industrial one.There was a great deal of social conflict along the way.Developing societies are being asked to cope with a pace of change much faster than this.Omanis have shown amazing resilience and adaptability to cope with the changes so far.The IT Revolution is forcing yet more change upon them ,the pace of development is accelerating. Even we have problems adapting.How much greater are the problems of adaptation for people from traditional societies!

The West must not impose its social and political ideas on people, but, instead, allow them to change and adapt in their own good time.Arabs must feel that they have control over the process of change.The current British and American attempt to install parliamentary government in Iraq is a case in point.It looks like neo-colonialism, the return of the white man. To paraphrase George Bush, “We’re the richest country in the world because we have the best form of government –democracy- and we’re going to give it to you whether you like it or not.”The arrogance is breath-taking. Perhaps Arab countries will evolve more representative forms of government in the future. But it will come when a majority of the people want and feel the need for them.

ภาพจาก Destination Oman

Tuesday, 10 June 2008


I left Oman on September 8th 2001, just three days before the destruction of the World Trade Center. That act was committed, I believe, by desperate men who came from traditional, socially conservative societies similar to Oman. They felt that their societies and their whole way of life were under mortal threat from the forces of modernity and development, usually referred to as globalization. The main source of this they identified as the United States. They regarded Western ideas and customs as enormous dangers, like huge tidal waves threatening to engulf them and their societies. The Arabs may have willingly embraced Western weaponry, technology and gadgetry, but they are afraid of Western concepts and ideas, such as parliamentary democracy, female emancipation, pop culture, sexual liberation and our secular values. I totally condemn the actions of the 9/11 terrorists, yet at the same time, I understand the motives that drove them to commit those terrible acts.

For the Arab man in the street,globalization can seem like one-way traffic.The mass media and the internet controlled by Western corporations,impose Western cultural values on you,whether you like it or not. American culture is very much‘in your face’ – it is frequently trashy and tawdry but is imposed on you willy-nilly.You do not have to be an Arab to feel this. The Frenchman who destroyed a Mac Donald’s with a bulldozer felt exactly the same way. The local cinemas in England where I live seem to show only American action films .There is no real choice. If you fancy a night at the cinema, it‘s Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone or nothing. You rarely see British films. This can look like cultural imperialism, total cultural dominance - I ‘m sure Bin Laden would agree.

ภาพจาก Destination Oman

Friday, 6 June 2008


Modernisation and development are happening at break-neck speed in Oman. In 1960, the country did not have electricity, proper roads, cars, television or any of the
gadgets of modern living.Then, with the discovery of oil, and later natural gas, things started to move.The current Sultan came to the throne after ousting his own father.

The old man had tried to stop all modernization, but with British military help, was swept aside. Oman was then set on a course of development which it has followed ever since. Modern hospitals appeared and the average life expectancy rose by fifteen years. A new road system now covers the country. New buildings shot up everywhere. Omanis exchanged their donkeys for fast Japanese and American cars. Changes which took place over centuries in other countries were accomplished in a few decades in Oman.The whole process of change was telescoped. The country was a fascinating mixture of the old and the new - a gleaming Mercedes would pass someone driving a donkey cart on the street. A brand-new BMW would be washed from water drawn from the centuries-old falaj water system, which derived its water from mountain streams.

Nasir explained to me that everyone in Oman was pleased with the material well being that the oil had brought. Life was much easier now with mod cons such as washing machines and refrigerators. Mobile telephones made communication easier. Cars and good roads meant people could get around more easily .Free universal health care was a tremendous boon – the average life expectancy had risen by fifteen years. Everything was easier and more convenient than in the old days.Nobody wanted to go back to those. However, he was much more wary when discussing social values.He liked the God-fearing, communal, traditional nature of Omani society and wanted it preserved. Women should continue performing their traditional role as well , and should know their place.Education was good but Omani life should not lose that sense of innocence , the strength of family and community ties that characterized it.He was proud,he said of ‘the positive values’ of Omani society which had to be cherished.We should be aware ,he said,of the negative aspects of progress and Western influence.To many Arabs,the West can appear godless, uncaring and materialistic .

ภาพจาก Bugbog

Thursday, 5 June 2008


Sometimes we would go to the small town cinema. Action movies starring Schwarzenegger, Stallone or Bruce Willis were the usual fare. James Bond was a particular favourite.Many of my students were absolutely convinced that James Bond’s lifestyle typified that of the average Englishman such as myself.Their naivety was incredible.When I said that it was a shame that people did not watch Arabic films, Nasir vehemently disagreed. Action movies were much more entertaining, he said. When we had dinner in a cheap Indian restaurant ,nicknamed ‘a greasy spoon’, the television showed WWF American wrestling.I found this a ridiculous circus act and so did Nasir ,but it was popular enough among ordinary people for Omani television to continue featuring it.American ‘junk food ’ outlets were making their mark too. In 1985, MacDonald’s, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut and KFC were well established in the capital area. By the nineties, they were expanding inland. Young Arabs liked the glitz and the glamour –the ‘greasy spoons’ simply could not compete.

On satellite TV , beamed in from America , there was a special show called ‘The Las Vegas Grind’ .It was the highlight of Friday evening in Oman.It featured scantily –clad and large-bosomed white girls dancing to disco music with men (mainly black) round a hotel swimming pool. I found it rather corny and unsophisticated, but for Omanis it was all very naughty and lascivious. The Arab world is extremely prudish in matters of dress and frowns upon activities like dancing. This TV material was for Omanis, the forbidden fruit. These programmes were very popular with young Omani males.In common with young men everywhere , they like looking at well-endowed , scantily clad girls dancing .However ,their culture and religion tell them that all this is wrong and sinful,the work of the devil. They are being pulled in two directions at once.

ภาพจาก lonely planet


Luxury shopping malls, based on the American pattern, sprouted up everywhere. They all seemed to follow the same pattern, selling expensive French perfumes, Italian clothes, and fancy watches. Youngsters would go there, not to buy but to gawk at the luxuries and to meet friends. I remember an elderly Bedouin woman examining a Braun hair-dryer imported from Germany... A woman who had always dried her hair with a piece of cloth was being induced to buy a fancy, foreign gadget. It was the advent of consumerism in the country as people were being seduced into buying expensive, imported consumer goods.Omanis took to computers and mobile phones like ducks to water.In addition, they began to travel abroad. Many military men did courses in Britain and students went to British universities. Many went to the Far East, notably Thailand for their holidays.They imbibed new ideas, observed different lifestyles and saw different political systems.

About this time too, I started visiting Fanja and Nasir Mansour.Nasir was a young fellow of twenty-eight who taught English in a local school. He lived in Fanja, a small and unremarkable town which nestled at the foot of a small mountain. His English was fluent and we became fast friends. Over the next eleven years, I used visit him on average once a week. I got to know his family and friends and developed a great affection for this small town and its people. We discussed ideas, the changes that were overtaking Oman and local people’s opinions of them.

ภาพจาก Ministry of Information Sultanate of Oman

Tuesday, 3 June 2008


Only Palestine mattered.Omani TV, in common with the other Arab networks, showed night after night the harsh treatment meted out on Palestinians by the Israeli army.They showed families being evicted from their houses at gunpoint, then showed these houses being demolished. Palestinian children throwing stones were fired on by Israeli soldiers and Palestinian women were constantly harassed.It was certainly one-sided.However,one began to understand the visceral hatred that exists between Arab and Jew , as well as the strong bonds of kinship that exist among all Arabs , enabling them to identify totally with the plight of the Palestinians.

As we entered the nineties, it all began to change.In 1991, Iraq invaded Kuwait and British and American soldiers were out on the streets of Oman.The country was a forward base for the liberation of Kuwait , and was in the world spotlight. There was a tense atmosphere as war approached. Speculation was rife as to whether Oman would be invaded too.We learned that nurses in the nearby hospital were doing courses on treating the victims of chemical warfare. Oman’s rulers were pro-Western, and sent soldiers to fight Iraq, but this certainly did not apply to everybody.Many secretly admired Saddam for having the guts to defy the West,and said it was wrong for Muslims to fight fellow Muslims.Then came the internet and satellite television.Suddenly, it seemed Oman was connected to the outside world. Omanis watched CNN or the BBC and were exposed for the first time to highly sophisticated news channels.The government agency OMANTEL attempted to censor material, but could not exert total control. A lot got through.

ภาพ Al Nakhal Fort, with Hajar Mountains in background

ถ่ายโดย Chris Mellor
ภาพจาก Lonely Planet

Saturday, 31 May 2008


I bought a four-wheel drive vehicle and set about exploring the country. The landscape was wild, primitive, beautiful. I came across small villages where the way of life had changed little since biblical times. I still remember seeing a young girl driving a herd of goats home to her village, just as the sun was setting - it could have been taken from the Old Testament. Arab hospitality is warm and all-embracing.I was invited into even the humblest of homes to partake of coffee, dates and fruit. A refusal to do so would cause the gravest offence. I observed a way of life simple and yet deeply meaningful. There is a warm communality that exists among Arabs, a close- knit tribal togetherness.In addition; there is genuine care and concern for children and the old, and strong family ties.It was a simple life ,largely devoid of consumer goods. The only signs of modern life in these communities were televisions, pick-up vans, refrigerators and the electric light.

In 1985 ,Oman was a country hermetically sealed off from the rest of the world.Newspapers were subject to strict censorship .The main English language daily ‘The Oman Observer’ was published by the Ministry of Information and only published good news , or hagiographic descriptions of the Sultan’s activities..Crime, for example was simply never reported.One could believe that the whole of Oman was entirely crime-free.It was a propaganda sheet .Television news treated world events in a perfunctory way .There was no discussion or analysis of current topics - everything was very superficial. Omanis knew very little of the outside world – and cared even less. The place was a cosy backwater.

ภาพจาก Destination Oman

Sunday, 11 May 2008


Oman, in common with most Gulf states is subject to autocratic, one-man rule.
Be they emirs,sultans,presidents,kings or whatever, Arab rulers are all dictators of one stripe or another.Western democratic notions of parliaments,political parties and elected representative government have simply not taken root here.The Omani political system was quite medieval in character.The various tribal chiefs assembled once a year in the capital to pay homage to the Sultan , similar to the barons in 14th century England.It was reported that one day the Sultan was out driving in his Landrover ,when he saw an apartment block that offended his sensibilities.It blocked his view of the mountain range.He immediately ordered its demolition – an operation carried out two days later. Henry VIII. would have heartily approved, I’m sure.

The position of women in Moslem society is, of course, quite different to the West.Oman is regarded as fairly liberal by Gulf standards and one does find women working in offices and banks, driving cars and attending university. They are only fully veiled in the remote desert areas. However, the sexes are segregated at the onset of puberty and girls are taught that their primary roles in life are to be good wives and mothers. Arabs are extremely possessive when it comes to their womenfolk. On my second day in Oman, I was warned by a British military policeman not to look at, talk to or make contact with Omani women. Occasionally, I had girl students in my class.This was always a time when I had to be on my guard not to say or do anything which could be construed by them as being offensive.In 1990, when Oman’s first university opened its doors, classes were strictly segregated.Male students would listen to a lecturer in one room and female students would have the lecture relayed to them by closed-circuit TV in another room.

ภาพ Al-Bustan Palace Hotel จาก Wikipedia

Saturday, 10 May 2008


It was the same, during Ramadhan, the holy month devoted to fasting. It started as soon as a group of religious teachers,known as ‘the Moonsighting Committee’ confirmed the sighting of the new moon.They took a plane and flew above the clouds , to do this ,and their decision was final. Many mountain villages in remote parts of Oman started fasting early – afraid that they would miss the start of Ramadhan. In the newspaper,there was an advice column written by a mullah , to help devotees to fast correctly.One man confessed to having inadvertently swallowed some saliva, and asked if this could be counted as an act of consumption.The mullah said yes,it was ,and to atone for this transgression , the man was solemnly instructed to do two extra days’ fasting.

ภาพจาก Destination Oman


I was immediately pitched into a society that was totally different to my own.I still vividly remember the original culture shock, and the difficulty I had getting over it. The first thing that struck you was the prime importance of religion in daily life, and how it completely dominated people’s thinking. The Omani day began with a booming call to prayer at 6 am, from the mosque outside my window.The end of the day was signaled in the same way. Religion provided a rhythm of life for the whole society. Ordinary Omanis, in common with other Muslims, exhibited a remarkable devoutness in their religious beliefs .They really believed. .They prayed five times a day without fail.They washed their hands before reading the Koran. They did not question religious injunctions.I was frequently asked by my students whether or not I ate pork. When I said I did, I was given dire warnings of the damage I was doing to my body.None of my students had ever eaten pork , but that did not matter. They believed the mullahs (religious teachers) implicitly, when they were told it was injurious to health.It simply did not occur to them to doubt or to question.

ภาพ Ruwi CBD Area จาก Wikipedia

Friday, 9 May 2008


I have been a teacher of English to foreigners for the last thirty years. . It has been an interesting, if frequently precarious existence, which has enabled me to see a great deal of the world. Sixteen of those years were spent in the Arab world.I feel I have acquired an understanding of what makes Arabs tick,and how they perceive the West and its culture.And I think I understand some of the motivations of the perpetrators of 9/11.

I first entered the Arab world in September, 1985. My motives were unashamedly
financial.I had been teaching for a number of years yet had very little in the bank to show for it. The Gulf countries offer high, tax-free salaries to people like me, and the Middle East is the one place in the world where language teachers can make big money quickly. I decided to take a job to teach air force cadets in the Sultanate of Oman, a little-known country on the south-east tip of Arabia.It seemed a great opportunity at the time.

ภาพจาก Welcome to the Arab World


It’s the question for our times.Why did a group of well-educated young Arabs choose to fly airplanes into New York skyscrapers? Where did this hatred for America and the West come from? Robert Butterfield, a British ex-patriate teacher who spent many years in the Middle East, offers a personal explanation.

In these times of conflict, friction and general mistrust between the West and the Arab world , it seems to me that we have seriously neglected Middle Eastern public opinion .How much do we know about what ordinary Arabs think about 9/11 ,about globalization?We do not really know why 9/11 took place , and only have vague ideas as to what actually motivated the perpetrators of those terrible deeds.Yet clearly it is vital to do this , if international peace , harmony and understanding are to be restored to a troubled world .In this article,I hope to make a modest contribution to this worthy goal.

ภาพจาก วิกิพีเดีย


This is simply not good enough. It is time for the Japanese to come clean. Japan has to admit her war guilt and show some remorse and atonement for the war of aggression she unleashed. Japanese schoolchildren must be told the truth about the actions of the wartime generation . War criminals should not be officially honoured and war victims should receive due compensation .Above all , the world needs concrete assurances from Japan that it will never happen again . Unless and until that happens , Japan’s neighbours and ,indeed , people everywhere will continue to regard her with suspicion and mistrust . The hatred will go on and the sufferings of Teddy Prosser,Bob and all the other unfortunates caught up in that terrible time,will have been in vain.



One is tempted to let bygones be bygones,until one reads of the Japanese Prime Minister’s annual visit to the Yakasuni Shrine in Tokyo.The present encumbent ,Mr.Shinzo Abe ,as well as his predecessor ,Mr Junichiro Koizumi make a great point of doing this.The shrine honours Japan’s war dead in many wars . Nothing wrong in that ,one might think until one learns that the Book of Souls in the shrine contains the names of one thousand and sixty-eight people indicted for war crimes and proven atrocities committed during the Second World War. It includes General Hideki Tojo generally regarded as the mastermind behind Pearl Harbour ,a man hanged for war crimes by the Allies.The visits have provoked a storm of criticism in China and Korea ,which the Japanese have completely ignored.BBC correspondents in Tokyo report that Japanese school history textbooks depict the Second World War as a ‘war of defence’ and that Japan was forced into war by America’s oil embargo.Generations of Japanese schoolchildren are being taught that their country did not commit aggression during the Second World War ,but was instead a victim of it.China has repeatedly asked Japan-to no avail- to apologise for the massacres of Nangking,in which over 100,000 Chinese civilians lost their lives.Similarly,the so-called‘comfort women’ – Chinese and Korean women forced to act as prostitutes to cater for the sexual needs of the Japanese wartime army- have received no compensation for their ordeal , despite repeated requests.No apology has been forthcoming,either.


Over sixty years later ,what are we to make of all this? Many say that it is time to forgive and forget , as far as the Japanese are concerned. In our modern world,they are a leading economic power and are important trading partners.They have a democratically-elected government,and are now part of the community of nations.Hatred towards them will only hinder efforts to build a better world.Nothing is gained by living in the past . It will not bring the dead back to life.The Japanese suffered terribly in the war too.What about Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Is it not time to bury the hatchet?

Many Allied survivors and veterans find this impossible to do , however.In the seventies,the Japanese Emperor visited London and planted a tree in Kew Gardens as a symbol of peace and goodwill.Later,someone broke in and cut it down.In the nineties,the Emperor again visited London,and British veterans again lined the route,wearing their medals.As his carriage passed them,they turned their backs on him as a sign of contempt.A deep hatred still burns - sixty years on.

Sunday, 4 May 2008


Boulle died in 1994 and thus cannot speak for himself..In fairness to him, it must be said that his book was written as a novel , a work of fiction .It is not a historical record ,and we cannot apply the same criteria of factual it. Boulle was a prisoner of the Vichy French ,but he never worked on the railway and his knowledge of it was gleaned from talking to survivors.John Stewart says that it is his book and the film that have ensured that this whole dreadful period is known about , all over the world . It could so easily have slipped into obscurity. To the eternal credit of Boulle and Lean , people know about this place and what took place here.

This is why thousands visit Kanchana Buri every year.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008


In the film,the Japanese are portrayed as technologically incompetent ,incapable of building a bridge.Stewart dismisses this as nonsense - the Japanese army had many capable engineers.And he derides the notion of a British officer openly collaborating with the Japanese – his fellow officers would not have stood for it.This collaborationist aspect of the film has caused anguish to many other veterans too. We worked for them ,yes we did , but we did not bend over backwards to help them , they say. The British officer ,Philip Toosey, the senior British officer at Kanchana Buri , was never a collaborator.He even encouraged his men to sabotage the bridge by putting wood-eating white ants into the main structure.

Stewart also says that the prisoners were dying like flies and were often buried close to where they had fallen.Those who died of cholera were instantly cremated , to prevent the spread of the disease.Improvisation was the order of the day .Thus, a grave marked ‘Johnny’ may not necessarily contain the remains of someone called ‘Johnny’ The situation was far more confused and disordered than that, and not at all as neat and tidy as the cemeteries in Kanchana Buri portray it today.


Tuesday, 22 April 2008


And ,according to John Stewart , a prisoner who worked as an interpreter for the Japanese and as a technical advisor to David Lean, the total horrible reality of it all was not shown in the film.Stewart had personally witnessed beatings administered on prisoners by Japanese guards ,and had seen friends and colleagues die of dreadful diseases. By 1957, the Japanese were attempting to join the civilized community of nations again, and there were pressing political reasons why they should not be portrayed as vicious savages.Stewart accuses Lean of pulling his punches in this respect ,of softpedalling the brutality .Lean’s film is ‘fiction’,says Stewart.It is all very well to say this, but Lean was trying to make a film that would entertain people.The truth in war is ,sometimes ,too hard to bear.Stephen Spielberg admitted doing the same when making ‘Schindler’s List’ , portraying the Nazi death camps. There are limits to what you can show on a cinema screen ,and film directors are bound by them.


Saturday, 19 April 2008


The name of the river is also incorrect.The Thais call the river ‘Khwae Yai’which merely means ‘the large tributary’, and is not a name as such.The word for ‘tributary’ is pronounced ‘Kway’. In 1942 ,says Dutch survivor Neil Evers, the river was known as the Mae Klong.and was only renamed Khwae Yai well after the war. Near the railway bridge at Kanchana Buri ,is an area where Thai farmers brought their buffalo to drink and bathe.Now the Thai word for ‘buffalo’ is ‘kwai’ , and this may be the origin of the title of Boulle’s novel.Did he mix up the two Thai words?

As mentioned before,there were two bridges ,not one,and the railway bridge was destroyed by allied bombing in 1945 - not by a British commando unit as portrayed in the film.The bridges and the railway were fully operational from October 1942 until February ,1945.They were then subjected to relentless allied bombing. from February 1945 onwards, finally being put out of action in June of that year.



All these figures are rough estimates..They all have the symbol next to them,meaning plus or minus.The plain truth is that nobody really knows exactly how many people died building the railway.The Japanese kept accurate records of their British, Australian and Dutch prisoners , plus the number of deaths and when they occurred, but they destroyed all records of their Asian prisoners.However,it is abundantly clear that the vast majority of the railway workforce was Asian ,vastly outnumbering all the other nationalities.They included Malayans (Tamils ,Malays and Chinese) ,Burmese , Javanese , Singaporean Chinese and Aminese. They had a higher mortality rate than the white men.. About half this Asian workforce perished ,whereas only about one-fifth of the white men died.But these Asians have been forgotten.They do not figure in the film or in the book. No well-trimmed cemeteries exist for them ! No memorials commemorate their sacrifice!

Sunday, 13 April 2008


Nevertheless, when one reads more about these terrible events, it is clear that Lean’s film and Pierre Boulle’s novel on which it is based , contain a number of inaccuracies that have helped perpetuate a number of historical myths and misconceptions .Fact and fiction have become closely interwoven to such an extent ,that it is extremely difficult to disentangle the two. It is important to do this because public perceptions of what happened here have been largely formed by the book and the film. For instance, the film portrays the building of the bridge at Kanchana Buri as a specifically British Army undertaking. This is clearly not so.There are many Dutch graves at Kanchana Buri of Dutch people captured when the Japanese overran the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia).These casualty figures for the construction of the railway are the ones cited by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

British 30,000 6,5040

Australians 13,000 2,710

Dutch 18,000 2,830

Asians 100 – 200,000 90,000

Other nationalities. 1,700 544

______________ ____________________



The psychological battle between the two officers is very much part of the general insanity of behaviour that war always brings with it.Colonel Nicholson ,the Alec Guinness character slowly descends into total madness before our eyes.Completing the bridge becomes a personal obsession and he totally fails to see that he is aiding and abetting the enemy . The haste of the Japanese to build the bridge , the tight schedule they are under,is also well portrayed. The destruction of the completed bridge now makes you shake your head with disbelief. A beautiful structure,the fruit of months of backbreaking toil disappears in an instant . “Madness! Madness!” says the British army doctor ,and you have to agree with him.


The ‘Death Railway’ was built to facilitate the Japanese conquest of British India. The invasion of India , ‘the jewel in the crown’ of Britain’s eastern colonies , would be the death blow to Britain’s Asian Empire .To do this ,the Japanese had to move men and munitions from Singapore to the Indian frontier with Burma.By mid-1942 , they had lost control of the sea , so it had to be done by land.. They planned a railway to run through 415 km. (258 miles) of mainly dense jungle and rugged terrain , from Nong Pladuk near Bangkok to Thanbyuzayat in Burma This line could link up with the Malayan and Burmese rail systems to form a continuous rail link from India to Singapore.The Japanese were working to a tight schedule.The sooner the railway was completed,the sooner the invasion of India could start.The work was started in June,1942 and completed in October,1943.After the fall of Singapore and Indonesia,they had many prisoners of war. Let them build it! According to the Japanese Bushido military code ,the Allied soldiers had behaved dishonourably and shamefully , by choosing to surrender rather than fighting to the death. Therefore they were not worthy of respect and could be treated like animals..The Japanese were not signatories of the Geneva Convention and thus did not feel bound by its terms.The Japanese watchword was “Speedo” This meant completing the bridge as quickly as possible, regardless of the cost in human life.

I have recently watched Lean’s film again , and regard it as a classic.


The sense of shock to the visitor is absolutely God’s name,could people be so brutal to each other? How could human life be held so cheaply? Neil Evers, a Dutch survivor writes about a shed on the camp which the Japanese always guarded carefully and which was always kept locked. After liberation ,this shed was found to contain medicines,bandages and medical materials.These had been supplied by the International Red Cross and were clearly dated , yet the Japanese had decided to deliberately withhold these supplies from the prisoners..It is almost impossible to comprehend the mentality of people who would do this .But that is what happened.


The numerous cemeteries are immaculately maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.Small, flat ,black gravestones lie in perfect rows on beautifully manicured lawns.Some of the epitaphs rend the heart.On one is inscribed , “ If I could have just one wish ,Johnny,I’d want you back with us again” ,written by a grieving mother.” Another says “My son has found an eternal resting place”There is also a separate cemetery for the Japanese.Only small Asian men with grey hair,trilby hats and large cameras visit it.A few miles up the road is ‘Hellfire Pass’.where the Australians were.They were given the task of cutting through solid rock, using the most basic of tools.They worked eighteen-hour shifts and forty per cent of them perished.You can still see drill bits,nails and saw blades embedded in the rocks. In the museum nearby, there are photographs of skeletal survivors , ribcages clearly visible , looking more dead than alive. They are smiling bravely, glad no doubt to have survived their dreadful ordeal. Many are resting on crutches ,displaying the stumps of amputated legs.

Friday, 11 April 2008


In 1988 I visited Kanchana Buri and the River Kwai for the first time.A modern , black steel and stone bridge now spans the river where the old bridge once stood.Nearby is a bustling railway station and trains frequently cross the bridge.The track snakes off into the jungle , towards the exotically named Three Pagodas Pass and Burma.It is a popular destination for tourists and there is a brisk trade in souvenirs.About two hundred yards downriver from the new bridge are the ruins of a smaller wooden supply bridge also built by the prisoners.Only a few pillars and stanchions remain.There are several museums full of war memorabilia of all kinds. Steam locomotives used in the war, stand near the bridge ,bedecked with Japanese flags.There are giant statues of Churchill ,Hitler and Mussolini with potted biographies of each in bad English,for the benefit of the uninformed.There is a gay ,fairground atmosphere, quite out of keeping with the history of the place.There are even ‘genuine’ Second World War steel helmets on sale- although I would not recommend buying them. To say that their authenticity is in doubt would be putting it mildly.


Again,I was unable to fathom the meaning of this remark.I learned more in 1957 when David Lean’s famous film , ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ came to the camp cinema.It was based on a best-selling novel of the same title,by the French writer,Pierre Boulle. We children all went to see it and revelled in the British bulldog grit portrayed.We loved the way Alec Guinness faced down the Japanese officer,we whistled the ‘Colonel Bogey’ march and cheered lustily when the bridge and the train were blown up.At the same time,the film taught me something about the war and South-East Asia , and made me aware of a wider world , outside my immediate personal experience.


I had no idea where Burma was , nor could I understand why working on the railway would make someone sick.There were mysteries in the adult world to which I was not privy.A little while later, the painters came to decorate our house.They were a jolly bunch and let an enthusiastic eight-year-old boy help them.I had a whale of a time ,mixing paint and washing brushes and I became particularly friendly with Bob,a dark-haired , rather intense man .I asked him one day,
“Oh Bob ,I expect you’re married”.
“Yes, indeed,” he replied, “ I have a very nice wife.”
“And I expect you’ve got a little boy just like me!”
“ Oh,no,” he said, “ The Japanese saw to that.”


I was born just after the Second World War .I was one of the ‘baby boomer’generation , as Bill Clinton described us , a child conceived to celebrate victory,the return of peace and the promise of a better world.I grew up on an air force camp in southern England.Every day,my father mounted his bicycle and pedalled to work on the camp,returning in the evening.Two doors away from us lived the Prosser family.The father,Teddy Prosser,was a rather puny ,withdrawn man who seldom spoke and who was frequently ill.I also noticed that he only worked mornings,returning home at lunchtime.I was a curious child and asked my mother why.
“ Oh,it’s because he worked on the railway in Burma when he was a prisoner of the Japanese.”


Saturday , January 12 th 2008 ,near Kanchana Buri ,western Thailand.

I am sitting in a jungle clearing ,sipping a cold beer and contemplating the river.It is calm now as it flows sluggishly by – you can barely detect a current.On the far bank is more verdant jungle.The whole place exudes an atmosphere of peacefulness and tranquillity.Yet it was not always so.For this is the Khwae Yai river , near Kanchana Buri in western Thailand ,the river the world knows as the River Kwai. Here the notorious ‘Death Railway’ and the famous bridge were built by the Japanese It is said that for every sleeper of the track that was laid,there is a corpse .It is a place full of ghosts of the past and spirits of the departed , and it has a unique atmosphere. I have been here many times,but it never fails to have a strong effect on me.It stirs up powerful emotions and evokes half-forgotten childhood memories.It is like that today.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

1678 CALL CENTER บริการยอดแย่ของ DTAC

เมื่อก่อนการบริการของโทรศัพท์ดีแทคนั้นจัดว่าดีมาก แต่ปัจจุบัน มีความรู้สึกไม่ดีกับบริการ CALL CENTER ยอดแย่ของDTAC หมุน หมายเลข 1678 เพื่อติดต่อเจ้าหน้าที่ประมาณห้า-หกครั้ง(ที่จริงนับได้ 7 ครั้ง) แต่สายซึ่งเป็นเสียงอัดเทปบอกว่าเจ้าหน้าที่ไม่วาง ขอให้ผู้ใช้บริการฝากข้อความให้โทรกลับ ผมฝากข้อความไปสองสามข้อความในทำนอง(ด่า)ต่อว่า แล้วก็ไม่เห็นมีหน้าไหนโทรกลับมา ผมจำเป็นต้องโทรกลับไปอีก แต่ก็ต้องรออยู่นานเพราะเสียงพักสาย และแล้วมีไอ้เบื้อกออกมารับสายพร้อมทั้งแจ้งว่าผมยังติดค้างค่าต่อสายอยู่อีก 321 บาท จึงถูกตัดสาย แค่เนี้ยะนะ ดูมันทำ เวรจริงๆ

แถมพอเปิดดูทางเว็บไซต์ค่าใช้จ่ายของเรา มีค่าปรับเพิ่มมาอีก 107.00 บาท

นี่เป็นกลเม็ดการดูดเลือดจากลูกค้าอีกแบบหนึ่งที่บริษัทให้บริการโทรศัพท์อีกบริษัทหนึ่งเคยทำมาแล้ว นี่มันนรกอะไรกัน

24/01/2551 0280001RC100081708 01/2551 ค่าต่อคู่สาย 107.00

11/02/2551 0280001RC100169452 02/2551 ค่าต่อคู่สาย 107.00

28/02/2551 0280001RC100229922 02/2551 ค่าต่อคู่สาย 107.00

09/03/2551 208032N0412899 02/2551 ค่าบริการเลขหมาย * 663.58

20/03/2551 0280001RC100323125 03/2551 ค่าต่อคู่สาย 107.00

รวมเงิน 1,091.58

น่ารำคาญมากกับการบริการแบบนี้ หากลูกต้าไม่มีความจำเป็นเร่งด่วน คงไม่มีลูกค้าหน้าไหนโทรไปคุยเล่น นอกจากนั้นยังมีเสียงพักสายที่น่ารำคาญซึ่งควรจะเป็นสิทธิของผู้บริโภคที่จะไม่ฟัง แต่กลับถูกยัดเยียดให้ฟัง สคบ.ควรเข้าไปดูแลเรื่องสิทธิผู้บริโภคในเรื่องนี้ด้วย หากท่านใดที่มีเรื่องราวน่ากวนใจในลักษณะดังกล่าวก็เขียนมาเล่าสู่กันฟังเพื่อให้รับทราบข้อมูลกันโดยทั่วไป และขอให้คณะกรรมการคุ้มครองผู้บริโภคได้พิจารณาเรื่องดังกล่าวด้วย

อย่างไรก็คาม ผมติดต่อเจ้าหน้าที่ผ่านทางอินเตอร์เน็ตตอนเช้าเพราะไม่สามารถทำอย่างอื่นได้ แต่โชตดีที่เจ้าหน้าที่ติดต่อกลับมาสอบถามเหตุการณ์ ผมเล่าให้ฟัง ก็ไม่แน่ใจว่าจะแก้ปัญหาดังกล่าวได้หรือไม่ แต่ต้องขอขอบคุณที่ติดตามลูกค้าที่ไม่เหมือนกับ Stupid 1678 Call Center ครับ

Sunday, 2 March 2008


หลังจากผมเขียนเรื่องราวเกี่ยวกับการบริการของโรงพยาบาลราชบุรี ผมได้รับข้อความจากบุคคลที่ไม่ยอมเปิดเผยชื่อคนหนึ่งส่งข้อความมาด่าอย่างหยาบคาย เมื่อวันที่ 29 กพ.51 ก็เลยนำมาลงให้อ่านกันเพราะได้รู้ว่า ไม่ใช่โรงพยาบาลราชบุรีเป็นแค่โรงพยาบาลยอดแย่เท่านั้น แต่คนที่ทำงานในนั้น ยิ่งแย่และน่ารังเกียจยิ่งกว่า เพราะเขาไม่ยอมรับความจริง ไม่ยอมรับการติเตียน ไม่ยอมรับสิ่งที่ไม่ถูกต้อง เขาเขียนข้อความส่งมาดังนี้ครับ

"ไอ้ห่า มึงมาลองทำงานในโรงพยาบาลบ้างสิโว้ย "

คนที่เขียน ไม่กล้าเปิดเผยชื่อตัวเองครับ คนสถุลๆ ในโรงพยาบาลแบบนี้นี้ยังมีอีกเยอะ อย่างคนที่ว่านี้ หวังว่าหากเป็นเจ้าหน้าที่ของโรงพยาบาลตัวจริง ก็เห็นว่าผู้อำนวยการคงต้องพิจารณาตัวเองแล้วครับ

Anonymous Feb 29

Thursday, 14 February 2008


ได้ข่าวตำรวจประกอบอาชญากรรมในช่วงนี้ไม่รู้สึกแปลกใจเพราะไม่ได้เพิ่งเกิดขึ้นในบ้านเมืองเราในปัจจุบันเท่านั้น แต่เกิดขึ้นในอดีตบ่อยครั้ง ขึ้นอยู่กับว่าผู้บัญชาการฯจะจริงจริงกับเรื่องเหล่านี้มากแค่ไหน หากไปเจอนักการเมืองชั่วๆ ที่อยู่เบื้องหลังอาชญากรรมของตำรวจเหล่านั้น ก็อาจทำให้เรื่องเงียบหายไปโดยที่ประชาชนตาดำๆ ทำอะไรไม่ได้หรือไม่ได้เคลื่อนไหวอะไรก็ยิ่งทำให้พวกตำรวจเลวเหล่านั้นได้ใจ ประกอบกรรมชั่วต่อไปได้อีก

อย่างไรก็ตาม ในหมู่ตำรวจยังมีคนดีๆ อีกมากมาย ผมประสบมาด้วยตนเอง เมื่อวันที่ 13 กุมภาพันธ์ เวลาประมาณ 12.00 น. ผมพบหญิงชราผู้หนึ่งที่หนีออกจากบ้านลูกสาวมา และอยากกลับบ้านเดิมที่บางแพ ราชบุรี แต่หลงทาง มาเดินอยู่แถวๆ ป้ายรถเมล์ย่านแยกหลักสี่ ชายคนหนึ่งที่อยู่ยืนอยู่ด้วยแจ้งความกับตำรวจ 191 ระหว่างรอ 191 มารับตัวอยู่นั้น มีตำรวจนายหนึ่งขับจักรยานยนต์ผ่านมา ผมเข้าไปแจ้งว่ามีหญิงชราหลงทาง ตำรวจนายนั้นบอกว่าจะช่วยแจ้งศูนย์ให้อีกแรง และแกยังใจดีควักเงินของตัวเองซื้อน้ำให้หญิงคนนั้นด้วย ผมเห็นตำรวจนายนั้น “ทำด้วยความเต็มใจช่วยมากกว่าทำตามหน้าที่” ก่อนจะขับรถไปแจ้งศูนย์ฯต่อไป

ผมไม่ได้ถามตำรวจว่าแกชื่ออะไร แต่รถจักรยานยนต์ของแกเป็นรถของกรมตำรวจ หมายเลขทะเบียน 57797 ผู้ใดทราบชื่อของนายตำรวจผู้นี้ ช่วยเมล์มาแจ้งด้วยนะครับ จะได้นำชื่อลงเพื่อเชิดชูตำรวจที่ดี คนดีให้คงอยู่ในสังคมไทยของเราต่อไปครับ


Friday, 25 January 2008

Just for money!

น่าสังเวชกลุ่มอันธพาลที่รับจ้างจากโรงเหล็ก เครือสหวิริยา ประจวบคีรีขันธ์ทำทุกอย่างได้เพื่อเงิน กระทั่งเข้าทำร้ายกลุ่มผู้ประท้วงคัดค้านการถมดินสร้างโรงงาน

สังคมไทยถูกทำลายย่อยยับเพราะเงิน คนกลุ่มหนึ่งยอมเป็นสมุนรับใช้นายทุนเพียงแค่เงินไม่กี่บาท ไม่มีสติและปัญญาคิดถึงความเสียหายต่อสิ่งแวดล้อม ต่อท้องถิ่นและประเทศชาติ

ขอประณามการกระทำการอันป่าเถื่อนของกลุ่มนายทุนในครั้งนี้และครั้งอื่นๆ ที่ผ่านมาและในครั้งที่กำลังจะเกิดขึ้นอีก



"โครงการโรงถลุงเหล็ก" ของเครือสหวิริยา 1,142 ไร่ ได้รับการอนุมัติโดยองค์การบริหารส่วนตำบล (อบต.) แม่รำพึง อ.บางสะพาน จ.ประจวบคีรีขันธ์ มีการออกใบอนุญาตเมื่อวันที่ 9 พฤศจิกายน 2550 ทำให้ชาวบ้านกลุ่มอนุรักษ์แม่รำพึง ร่วมกันคัดค้านจนยกเลิกเมื่อวันที่ 21 พฤศจิกายน 2550 ต่อมา อบต.แม่รำพึง ได้เห็นชอบและยื่นเอกสารเสนอนายอำเภอบางสะพาน หลังจากบริษัท สหวิริยาฯ ทำแผนป้องกันน้ำท่วมพร้อมรับฟังความเห็นจากชาวบ้านใน ต.แม่รำพึง อ.บางสะพาน ตลอดจนพื้นที่ใกล้เคียง

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